LOWELL, Mass. (WHDH) -
A Lowell High School freshman was diagnosed with tuberculosis and now hundreds of people will be tested.
Officials said the person had TB symptoms and was not treated, so he or she developed the disease.
More than a dozen teachers are being tested this week and more than 100 students will be tested next week. Officials sent a letter home with students letting them know about the developing situation.
“It was just telling us that someone in there had it, it was very serious, and someone had to go to the hospital. They gave us a from and I didn’t really think about it much so I tossed it aside but now we’ll have to get tested so I’m a little worried,” Lowell High School freshman Camaro Chea said.
TB can take up to six weeks to fully appear, so everyone who is tested now will undergo another test before school starts in August.
Health officials said TB cannot be transmitted through a handshake or on an infected surface; rather, a person must be present when an infected person coughs to catch the airborne disease.
City Health Director Frank Singleton said only students and staff who came in close contact with the student will be given the skin tests, which show whether a person has ever been exposed to bacteria that cause the lung disease.
“We did the teachers yesterday we’re doing the students next week, they will be redone in august when they come back to school because the body takes a while to react to the infection,” Singleton said.
Even if a test is positive, it does not indicate that a person has the disease. Students or staffers who test positive will be referred to Lowell General Hospital for monitoring or free treatment with antibiotics.
Public health officials say there are typically between 200 and 250 cases of tuberculosis in Massachusetts each year, mostly among older, foreign-born residents.